In March 2020, the Covid-19 virus came and punched everybody in the face.
Up until then, Guam politicians had carelessly allowed the island’s public health clinics and only civilian public acute care facility to waste away into near oblivion.
Public Health’s Mangilao headquarters had been emergently evacuated and shut down due to an electrical fire. The epidemiologic lab facilities were closed due to incompetent administrative leadership. The Skilled Nursing Unit and the Southern Public Health clinic were shut down due to broken air conditioning and inept medical facility maintenance.
The Public Health director abruptly quit. Senior government officials, fearful for their own lives, submitted their retirement papers. Most awfully, at the start of the Pandemic, Public Health physicians had no idea who their medical director was because everybody had abandoned their post.
To the shame of the governor who is herself a distinguished hospital nurse, more than 30 highly paid government Department of Education school nurses refused to provide meaningful nursing leadership or to support desperately needed acute clinical care in the hospitals.
By April 2020, when the fifth Guamanian was murdered by the virus, the island was deep into a state of emergency. International flights were quarantined. The island economy was shut down.
The governor commanded the population to stay at home. The parks and beaches were declared off-limits. Security guards patrolled the island. Motorists were told that the roads and highways were closed.
Our island’s three hospitals became quickly overwhelmed when the virus began killing people and the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt limped unexpectedly into Apra Harbor.
As Covid subjugated the island, our hospitals had to pivot their operations to meet the increasing patient demand for health services. Emergency Rooms became even more chaotic and soon blue glamping tents were set up in the Guam Memorial Hospital's parking lot to symbolize hope.
More practically, the Governor wisely consulted with medical leaders in the community and enacted Executive Order No. 2020-06.
Thus, the humbled government of Guam was able to preserve hospital resources; facilitate more efficient medical testing and triage of Covid patients; and provide access to care for anxious island patients outside of the Emergency Rooms.
Governor Leon Guerrero declared, "Tier 2 clinics will be for non-Covid-19 urgent care facilities… I have designated the American Medical Center, FHP, and SDA to be used for urgent care."
With improved availability of sophisticated PCR laboratory technology led by innovative efforts by Public Health laboratory technicians, TIER2 clinics quickly transitioned to widespread aggressive testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. Despite formidable institutional inertia, Guam Public Health was able to strengthen Covid-19 positive isolation and contact tracing techniques eventually mitigating more widespread disease.
Unfortunately, Guam’s disjointed and chaotic Covid response still saw more than 400 islanders perish in too-often lonely, fearful circumstances. At one point, Guam was notorious as the worst affected territory in the United States with too many Covid patients dead on arrival.
It was during the Pandemic that many unfortunate patients at GMH found out that Guam had a big problem.
According to the Army Corps of Engineers, GMH was so dangerously decrepit that it needed to be immediately repaired or replaced.
In 2021, Gov. Leon Guerrero decided that it would be a “no-brainer” to replace GMH and stop spending good money on stupid old GMH. So, the Governor of Guam put $300 million in federal Covid relief funds into her piggy bank and she went about her business.
Three long years later, GMH has not aged well and the governor says it is time to build a new hospital and a 100-acre medical complex in Barrigada. This time, medical leaders in the community have loudly, clearly, and frequently told the Governor that the new GMH should be built more immediately and cost-effectively at Ypao Point instead.
The Matrix company and the Guam legislature which represents the people of Guam who are the Governor’s boss likewise have told the Governor to build the new GMH at Ypao Point right away.
Toxic black mold, snakes in the ceilings, rampant political corruption... the problems facing GMH are big. The best way to deal with big problems is to deal with it today. The people of Guam should not be made to wait for Governor Lou to build a billion-dollar road in Barrigada; condemn private property for hospital access; and somehow construct a 100-acre medical complex in the middle of nowhere.
The policy of the people is that GMH be built as quickly as possible because the current facility is unclean, unsafe, and unacceptable. Since it will ultimately be Guam taxpayers who pay for most of this new hospital project then the purse strings and policy are the birthrights of the people and by extension, the legislature.
The recent failure of the governor and the legislature to expeditiously reform and rebuild GMH has left the people of Guam exasperated, exhausted, and exposed to clear and present medical danger.
With the tragic deaths of several local obstetric healthcare providers, the shortage of doctors to safely deliver sick babies at GMH has descended to the emergency level. Already suffering some of the worst cases of preventable maternal and fetal deaths in the nation, Guam now ignominiously enters the year 2024 with progressively worsening care of pregnant women and newborn babies at GMH.
GMH has reneged on a multitude of secret medical malpractice lawsuit settlements by not implementing promised safety measures. Thus, further clinical misadventures have injured and maimed a growing number of innocent women and children who trusted GMH with their lives. The crimes against humanity committed by an unsafe public entity at GMH beg for federal intervention.
Guam patients are furious about the filthy conditions now perpetuated at Guam Memorial Hospital. The Organic Act holds the governor of Guam ultimately responsible for the failures at our island's only civilian public hospital. When another island mother tragically loses her baby due to the failed patient safety circumstances at GMH, all of us have failed.